Vol. 26 No 2 | Winter 2024
Dr James Brown

It may seem strange for O&G Magazine to dedicate an issue to sustainability, but sustainability and women’s health are intimately interlinked.

Medicine modernised under the microscope. Discovering a whole universe of cells and genetics oriented our attention to the very small. Over these decades we have seen a revolutionary acceleration in research that led to a historic improvement in world and women’s health. However, our current century now contends with the very big.

Climate change is an existential shadow that threatens current and future global health. Our lives cannot benefit from centuries of medical progress on a planet that isn’t liveable. This is the new context in which medicine is practiced and there are admirable vanguards leading the way in weaving this into everyday work. This issue seeks to highlight just some of those clinicians and thinkers advocating for a sustainable women’s healthcare system in Australia. Whether it’s carbon neutral clinics, green anaesthesia, or promoting breastfeeding as a way to mitigate the impact of climate change — you are fortunate to soon read how sustainability is relevant to all of women’s health.

However, sustainability is not only an antidote to climate change, but to the inevitable inequalities of infinite growth. It would seem a world flush with so much would find a water-level of distribution; a bell-curve of wealth. Instead, we find more and more concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer. Sustainability is a way of approaching the world where we define what is enough, so that we can free up the rest for others. In the case of climate change, this is using our current resources wisely so that future generations can enjoy their share. Sustainability is just as relevant to biodiversity, nutrition, and reproductive rights.

And this is why, as an editorial team, we felt so strongly about dedicating an entire issue to the topic of sustainability.

Sustainability challenges inequalities in much the same way women’s health has over the last century. Political rights led to greater representation, which led to important advancements in contraception, abortion availability, and birth choices (among myriad others).

The social progress in women’s health is linked to progress in gender equality. As reproductive rights improve so too does gender equality, and as gender equality improves, so follows reproductive rights.

Gender equality is still a work in progress and there is a lot to achieve. Recent changes to abortion law and reproductive care in the United States show how vulnerable these improvements are, and how they still need vigilant defence.

The global inequalities that sustainability seeks to address will inevitably affect women disproportionately, and therefore makes these initiatives an inherent interest of our college and colleagues. The pandemic was a clear example of how women are always asked to carry the largest burden when crises occur.

More recently, the emerging narrative around declining birth rates is already implicating reproductive choice as a cause – suggesting that women are somehow responsible for a complex global phenomenon. Big complex problems ask more of women than anyone else, and there are many big problems on the horizon. Sustainability is an attempt to stem these issues before they fulminate.

Inside this edition, you will read stories from a variety of experts working diligently on sustainability research and initiatives relevant to women’s health. Each may have a specific perspective, but all are united by the underlying goals of sustainability. Together they are greater than the sum of their parts and can hopefully inspire you to use the resources you have towards equality in women’s health.

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